Wimbledon Day 8 | Murguruza marches on; Konta, Williams and Rybarikova follow
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Spain’s Garbine Muguruza is sitting at the the top of the women’s draw having displaced the No 1 seed, Angelique Kerber, on Manic Monday in probably one of the best match of The Championships.
I played good. I was clear about what I had to do, we have played a lot together. I was just trying to go for it, play my game Gabine Muguruza
She is now looking every inch the pretender to the throne as she moves one step closer to winning her second Grand Slam title by beating Svetlana Kuznetsova in straight sets.
Muguruza was a runner-up at the All England Club in 2015, and now looks primed to go one better this year after easing past the experienced Russian, 6-3 6-4.
Last year’s French Open champion will now face the tournament’s surprise package, Magdalena Rybarikova, for a place in the final on Saturday in what was a disrupted match which started out on Court1 and ended in the evening on Centre due to rain.
Kuznetsova enjoyed strong starts in both sets but failed to capitalise and it was Muguruza’s superior serving and movement that proved decisive out on No 1 Court before the rains came.
“I played good. I was clear about what I had to do, we have played a lot together. I was just trying to go for it, play my game,” Muguruza told the BBC.
“[Reaching the final in] 2015 seems far away. I am a different player, more calm now. There have been big changes in me. I’m so happy to be back at the place where I had my breakthrough.”
Beaten in the 2015 Wimbledon final by Serena Williams, Muguruza has a golden opportunity to lift the Venus Rosewater Dish for the first time while the 23-time major winner is side-lined preparing for the birth of her first child.
The 23-year-old, temporarily being coached by compatriot and former Wimbledon winner Conchita Martinez, broke Kuznetsova in the fourth game of the first set, an advantage she never looked like relinquishing.
Kuznetsova, a former French and US Open champion, was in her first Wimbledon quarter-final for 10 years, but the 32-year-old had no answer to Muguruza’s searing ground-strokes.
Claiming another break in the fifth game of the second set, Muguruza pressed home her advantage to wrap up the win.
“It means a lot [to be back in the Wimbledon semi-finals],” Muguruza told the media later.
“You know, especially since that final, and last year losing in second round, to be able to go deep in the tournament still with chances.
“I’m very happy and very pleased also with this match, because obviously Kuznetsova is a very tough opponent.
“We all know she has been and is a great player. I managed to play a good level during all the match. I earned the victory.”
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Venus Williams became the oldest Wimbledon semi-finalist for 23 years as the five-time champion brushed aside French Open winner Jelena Ostapenko on Tuesday.
Ostapenko was only a few weeks old when Williams made her Wimbledon debut 20 years ago, was the junior champion here only three years ago, and would certainly have been more fancied to make her Grand Slam breakthrough on the grass rather than clay until her stunning performance at Roland Garros.
It was Williams, however, now aged 37, who delivered the 73-minute masterclass on Centre Court to make her the most senior player to reach the last four since Martina Navratilova in 1994.
“I know she had to be feeling confident. She played a great match. Not a lot of errors,” said Venus later.
“I never played her. Watched her. Didn’t really know what to expect. The grass, of course, changes the game. So just a lot of factors. I was really happy to come out on top.”
It was a rock-solid performance under the Centre Court roof from Williams as she tamed the big-hitting Latvian with some aplomb, 6-3 7-5.
She had already disposed of a 21-year-old and two teenagers en route to her 38th Grand Slam quarter-final, and barely flinched against the 20-year-old whose magnificent 11-match winning run in majors came to an end.
She broke Ostapenko’s serve in the second game and was untroubled in taking the opener in 29 minutes, sealing it when her 13th-seeded opponent swished at thin air on an attempted forehand service return.
Ostapenko was subdued as Williams secured an early break in the second set, although she got a helping hand back into the match when Williams double-faulted to drop serve.
The Latvian began to look threatening as she held serve to love with an ace to move 4-3 ahead and Williams, who had to serve to stay in the second set at 4-5, was relieved to see an Ostapenko return land narrowly wide at 30-30 before squaring the set.
Ostapenko felt the pressure in the next game when a hurried forehand into the net gave Williams the break and the veteran needed no second invitation, holding serve to love to claim victory after an hour and thirteen minutes.
“She was playing good today,” Ostapenko admitted. “She was serving well.
“I think I didn’t start the match very well. I was missing a little bit. But, yeah, she was serving really well. It was very tough to break. Because of that I had more pressure because I had to keep my serve.”
Venus gave her credit and understanding: “She went for a lot of shots, but I think, you know, she probably felt like you’re in the quarter finals, so at that point you maybe should go for a lot of shots.
“She competed really well. She kept herself, you know, really in the game with her attitude. I thought she just did a lot of things really well and kept it close.
“That’s when you have an opportunity to hopefully maybe take a set or the match. She did the right things to do that.”
World number 11 Williams, beaten in this year’s Australian Open final, is chasing a first major title since winning Wimbledon in 2008 and in with a real chance.
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The American, an eight-time Wimbledon finalist, will play Britain’s Johanna Konta, the first British woman to qualify for the Wimbledon semi-finals in 39 years after her historic victory over Simona Halep.
She followed Williams on to the sheltered Centre Court, taking on the World No 2 and hoping to become the first British woman to reach the semi-finals since Virginia Wade in 1978.
Not since Jo Durie in 1984 has Britain had a female representative in the last eight and Konta, who had a real chance to become the first home winner of the Wimbledon women’s title since Wade in 1977, carried the added incentive to go a step further against Halep after their stormy Fed Cup encounter earlier this year.
Konta was reduced to tears by what she felt were threats and intimidation from the Romanian fans in Constanta during her match against Sorana Cirstea, but Halep fanned the flames this week when she claimed her compatriots had done nothing wrong.
Wade was among those taking a seat in the Royal Box for the hotly-anticipated grudge match.
Halep’s extra motivation was victory over Konta would guarantee her as the new World No 1, taking over the top spot from Angelique Kerber.
As it happened the 26-year-old Konta mounted a sensational comeback to win her place in the semis, 6-7 7-6 6-4, under the closed roof.
Konta was emotional after the match came to an end, but celebrated with the adoring crowd as they rose for a standing ovation.
For the Romanian, it spelled the loss of yet another opportunity and her hopes of taking the World No 1, which instead will transfer from Angelique Kerber to Karolina Pliskova next week.
“Right now it’s a little bit surreal,” Konta told the BBC.
“I stuck to my true self and tried to create as many opportunities as possible.
“I knew she was not going to give much away for free so I definitely had to be the one to create my own chances. I did that and feel fortunate to have taken a few of them.”
On facing the 37-year-old Williams, the five-time Wimbledon champion, Konta said: “Age is not a factor. She’s a tremendous champion and I feel very humbled to share a court with her again.”
After two hours and 38 minutes, a pulsating match had ended on an awkward note as Halep patted a forehand into the net, having been prompted to stop by a scream in the crowd.
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Inspired by her coach Pat Cash’s celebrations of the 30th anniversary of his Wimbledon title, American 24th seed Co-Co Vandeweghe was targeting her first Wimbledon semi-final as she faced Slovakian world number 87, Magdalen Rybarikova, who had a 17-1 record on grass this season but had never made the last four at a major.
It was the unseeded Rybarikova, however, who was to make the headlines as she somewhat surprisingly struck her way through to the semi-finals after beating the American in straight sets.
The rain-affected match began on No 1 Court but finished under the Centre Court roof where Rybarikova was always in control, winning 6-3 6-3.
Rybarikova will now face Spain’s Garbiñe Muguruza in Thursday’s semi-finals.
And so, after two days of the game’s biggest names questioning this tournament’s preference for men’s matches on its show courts, here was a dazzling advert for women’s tennis, played at a ferocious pace by two players at their technical and physical best.